I’m just going to come right out and say it: I am smitten with Leah and Austen’s wedding! From the most charming location (Fearrington is an office favorite–we even took some of our V6 team pictures there!), to the prettiest bouquets, to Austen’s sharp Southern seersucker, to the sparkling reception, there are so many details to love. Even more than that though, my heart absolutely melts seeing their faces in these pictures. All of their big wedding moments–the first look, the vows, the dances, and so much more–were so clearly full of true love and overwhelming joy. Plus, I can’t help but have a soft spot for emotional brides, considering there is about a 99.9% chance that I’ll someday be one of them! :)
Big hugs to our lovely and talented friend, Nancy Ray, for sharing Leah and Austen’s wedding with us!
Austen and I met in class at the University of North Carolina. The summer before my junior year, I was living with one of my closest girlfriends, and we both decided to pick up a summer session class at the last minute. The stars must have aligned to make us choose that class, I swear. Austen and I were randomly paired up for a partner project in that very class. We had both noticed one another earlier in the semester–he sat diagonally to my front left–but hadn’t talked that much, and after the project was done, we didn’t go out of our way to stay in touch. He was always just the cute, funny guy from class. We’d see each other out and about around Chapel Hill, but that was it. Or so I thought–apparently, he’d called his mom at the start of the class to tell her about “a pretty girl who wears sweatpants to class.” Ha! I never thought my casual attire for early morning classes would be a good thing! A few weeks after our fall semester classes started, Austen got in touch with me to give me a hard time about my favorite football team. I’m a Green Bay Packers fan, and he pulls for their conference rival, the Minnesota Vikings. After some banter back and forth, he finally asked me for my number, and our “first date” was a trip to the grocery store in his old Jeep Wrangler. I was officially hooked!
Describe your wedding flowers. I wanted a fresh, just-gathered-from-the-garden feel for our flowers. Our “official” color palette was blush, peach and gold, but we didn’t want everything to be too matchy-matchy. My bridesmaids were wearing beautiful beige chiffon dresses, and Austen and his groomsmen were in blue seersucker suits, so I wanted simple, muted flowers that would pair nicely with everything without taking over. Our florist did an amazing job, especially considering I’d given her basically zero input! The bouquets and centerpieces were exactly how I had pictured them, and I could have never articulated that to her–she just “got it.” They were textural, asymmetrical arrangements in hues of pink, peach, ivory, and fresh greenery. My bouquet was wrapped with sparkly gold ribbon, which I loved!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We did! At first, I was against Austen seeing me before the ceremony. I thought it would “take away” from the moment he saw me walking down the aisle, but he convinced me that our ceremony would be just as special, even if we’d seen each other first. And I am so, SO glad we did. We’re both pretty emotional people, so doing a first look was the perfect way to ditch the pre-ceremony jitters and get the “ugly cries” out of the way. As soon as I stepped out of the bridal suite and saw Austen standing with his back turned to me, the waterworks started. We laughed a lot, hugged a lot, and prayed a lot–it was absolutely perfect. It’s one of the only moments from the day that didn’t go by in a complete blur, and one of the only times reserved for just the two of us. The photos from our first look are some of the only ones we were able to take outside, thanks to the rainstorm of the century that rolled in right as the ceremony began, so I am so, so grateful for them! The lighting was beautiful, and the emotions we felt were so perfectly captured in the photographs. They are definitely some of our favorites from the wedding day!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The weather! It had been the rainiest summer I could remember here in North Carolina, and a few weeks out, Austen and I talked about having rain on our wedding day. We both decided to just roll with whatever happened, so I was mentally prepared when rain was in the forecast. The morning of the wedding, it was overcast and drizzly, but we held out hope that it would clear. It did, for a few beautiful hours before the ceremony when we were able to get some stunning outdoor photographs, but then the sky darkened again, and it rained on and off (mostly on) throughout the rest of the day. If that old saying holds, we’ll have our fair share of good luck! Thankfully, our venue was great with a last-minute change to the ceremony location to accommodate the weather. Honestly, I loved the space where we ended up getting married even more than the outdoor location we’d originally chosen. It was an huge terrace with all the windows and sliding doors open so that we could hear the rain falling softly. The plethora of natural light pouring in was just the icing on the cake. Our wedding planner did such a fantastic job decorating the space and dealing with the crazy weather (not to mention shuffling 175+ guests around in the rain!) that when Austen and I look back on our wedding day, we forget that the weather wasn’t cooperative!
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Yes, we knew as soon as we got engaged that we wanted to write our own vows, and since Austen’s grandfather married us, we were able to completely customize our entire ceremony. We kept our vows a secret from each other until the big day–we had my maid of honor proofread them to make sure they were similar in length and seriousness, and agreed to both use the phrase “I promise” as a general structure. Standing in front of all of our loved ones, saying the words we’d written to each other was one of my absolute favorite moments. They were incredibly personal and very “us”–we both made each other laugh and cry. I don’t think we stopped smiling the entire time. My favorite line from Austen’s vows was: “I promise to never settle for less for our family, and to conduct myself in a way that you will always be proud of. But most importantly, I promise to never let us forget why we love each other.” His favorite line from mine was: “Life will take us on many journeys–some good, and others not so good, but I promise to spend the rest of my days making sure you know how much I love you, and appreciate you loving me.” We also both ended up referencing the other’s football preferences, which I think is hilarious, because that’s how we really started “talking” in the first place!
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Austen grew up in Iowa before moving down to North Carolina in high school, but let me tell you–he’s a Southern boy at heart! I have lived below the Mason-Dixon my entire life, and I always knew that I wanted a sweet, Southern soiree on my wedding day. Fearrington was the perfect place for us to tie the knot–we fell in love with the beautiful pastures, the gorgeous barn, and the sweet Beltie cows! It exuded Southern charm effortlessly, and needed very little decoration on our part to be stunning! Austen chose blue seersucker suits for him and his groomsmen (which made me swoon!), and rounded out the look with pink linen bow ties and classic white bucks. They looked so dapper on our wedding day. The seersucker ended up being a fantastic decision because we had some serious humidity to deal with, so I was relieved the boys weren’t melting in tuxedos! We served Southern food and local NC brews at the reception, and I surprised Austen with a groom’s cake.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding?
There are two that I just couldn’t have gone without–Erin of Erin McLean Events and Nancy of Nancy Ray Photography. Originally, my mom and I thought that since we had a year and half to plan the wedding, we could handle it without a coordinator. Wrong! Planning a wedding is a full-time job, and hiring Erin literally took every ounce of stress out of it. I work for Southern Bride & Groom, a local wedding planning magazine, and I found Erin through their vendor recommendations, and thank goodness for that! I truly enjoyed the entire process, and I would do it again and again if I could have Erin by my side! She came up with absolutely wonderful ideas, sweet details, and took care of everything, while being honest about what details we should and shouldn’t skip to help our budget. My maid of honor introduced me to Nancy Ray’s blog right after Austen and I got engaged. I fell in love with her sweet story, her business ideals, and of course, her gorgeous photography. Nancy and her husband (who was also her second shooter!) also got married at Fearrington (in the rain, too!) so I knew they’d have beautiful ideas for our wedding photography. They captured our wedding day so perfectly–every time I look at the photographs, I relive every detail, and that’s something I will absolutely treasure forever. Not to mention, she’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met!
Toward the end of the reception, our DJ played some Carolina favorites–”Wagon Wheel” and “Carolina in my Mind.” Most of the crowd had whittled down, and it was mostly our college friends and immediate family left. Everyone linked arms in a circle around Austen and I, and I just felt so, so loved!
Tell us all about the proposal! After about two years of dating, Austen and I talked about getting engaged. I made the decision to graduate from school a semester early so that we could move in with one another and start our lives together, so I knew that a proposal was on the horizon. I just didn’t know when or how it was going to happen! On January 30, 2012, we were watching a movie at his apartment and talking about when we were going to get engaged. Austen mentioned he already had the ring, and it was just sitting in his closet. He knew that would be a successful way to completely throw me off, and he was right! I knew, I just KNEW, he’d want to follow tradition and ask my parents before he popped the question, and with his crazy work schedule, I thought there was no way he’d had time. Of course, I was wrong! That same night, he got down on one knee beside his bed and asked me to marry him. I’m pretty sure I said yes at least three times before he even finished asking. The moment was just so true to us–we were both in our pajamas spending a quiet night at home, and I had my hair piled in a messy bun on top of my head. Looking back, it makes me smile every time, because I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. The diamond in my engagement ring has been in my family for generations–it was the stone in my grandmother’s engagement ring, and she was married to her husband for over 50 years, so it made the moment even more special. For graduation, my dad had given me the stone set in a necklace. I had thought that I lost it, and was so distraught, but it turned out that Austen had snagged it when I took it off before going to bed one night to have it set in a ring!
When did y’all get married? May 19, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 178
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I have a long-standing love affair with weddings. My friends in high school and college always joked that I would be the first to take the trip down the aisle. I fell in love with TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” in high school, and my mom and I had a running joke that when I got engaged, we’d go to Kleinfeld in New York to look for my dress. After Austen proposed, my mom surprised me by saying, “Well, when are we going to the city?!” I was absolutely giddy–I love New York, and of course, I was thrilled to get the chance to look for my dress at the famous bridal salon. We made a weekend out of the trip, and my mom, my maid of honor, one of my bridesmaids and I had a blast looking at all of the gowns. I had very specific instructions for my consultant–I wanted all lace, no beading or embellishments, and absolutely no dropped waists. Well, sure enough, she brought in a beautiful, all-lace gown that I immediately loved on the hanger, but when she told me it had a dropped waist, I almost refused to try it on! She urged me to just try it, and thank goodness she did, because I completely fell in love with it as soon as she zipped me up! It was only the third dress I tried on, and it had a gorgeous train and the most delicate scalloped hemline. The consultant added a thin tulle sash, and it was absolutely perfect!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? One of my best girlfriends from college read Tyler Knott Gregson’s “Typewriter Series No. 1,” because when I first saw it, I fell in love with the line: “I am filled with wonderings, questions, and doubt, but of one thing I am certain: it will always be you that gives flight to the butterflies inside me, calm to the sea I have become, and hope to the darkness all around us. It is you, and it has always been you.” The rest of the piece is just so beautifully written, and it really stirs something in my soul. I feel like it describes love so perfectly, and how when you meet “your person,” you just know. Then, after we said our vows and exchanged rings, my cousin read Colossians 3:12-17, which has always been one of my favorite Bible verses.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Austen and I (and many members of our bridal party) either graduated from UNC or are diehard Tar Heel fans. We wanted to give a nod to our alma mater, so my bridesmaids walked down the aisle to James Taylor’s “Carolina in my Mind,” played by a violin and guitar string duo. I walked down the aisle to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.” Honestly, I was hesitant to stick with my selection once I found out it had been in one of the Twilight movies, but I just loved the song so much. I am so glad I didn’t change my mind–it sounded so incredibly beautiful on the strings, with the rain falling outside as I walked in with my dad (the rain stopped just long enough for us to walk the 50 or so yards from where we were waiting to the ceremony site, but started up again immediately after we got under cover!) I still get goosebumps whenever I hear it! We walked back down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun,” which is hilariously ironic, because it was absolutely pouring! Austen and I did our first dance to Zac Brown Band’s “Free.” We both love the guitar in the song, and felt like the words really fit our relationship as young newlyweds.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Our wedding cake was pretty basic–a tiered vanilla cake topped with white, whipped buttercream and fresh flowers. What I was really excited about was Austen’s groom’s cake, which was a total surprise! As a student at UNC, he’d frequented an old dive bar called He’s Not Here with his friends, going almost every Monday to watch football. I knew their iconic “blue cups” would make an adorable cake, and it came out perfectly! Not to mention, it was absolutely delicious!
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Austen’s grandfather, Buddy, performed our ceremony, and it was such a sweet detail. When I met Austen up at the altar, all three of us shed a few tears. Because of the change to the ceremony site, we were unable to have a sound system. At first, I was upset by the fact that all of our guests would be unable to fully hear all the words we’d so carefully put together, but in the end, I think it was a blessing in disguise. It allowed the ceremony to be incredibly intimate, despite having almost 180 people present.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes! My something borrowed was a pair of earrings from my great grandmother. They’re simple stud earrings with a cluster of three pearls, and they’ve been worn by several women on my mom’s side on their wedding days. My something blue was an embroidered handkerchief I carried that belonged to the great grandmother I was named after. My something old was a sixpence that has been worn in the shoe of brides on my dad’s side of the family for generations. It’s a Southern tradition for good luck, and I was so honored to be inducted into the wonderful group of ladies who have worn it before me! My something new was my wedding dress, my gold heels (which I’m absolutely obsessed with!), and a pearl bracelet my stepdad gave me the Friday before the wedding.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? There were so many! But one of my favorite moments was having both my dad and my stepdad give me away. I walked down the aisle with my dad, but when we reached the end, my stepdad stood up, and Austen’s grandfather (our officiant) asked “Who has the honor of presenting this woman to be married to this man?” and they responded, in unison, “We do.” I thought it was the perfect way to honor both of the men who have been so integral in my life, and I thought it was a great spin on tradition for less-than-traditional families. Austen’s favorite moment was when Nancy (our photographer) and her husband snuck us away during dinner for a few photographs outside between rain showers. Not only are the photographs absolutely beautiful (we got some with Fearrington’s famous Beltie cows!), but it was so nice to take a moment away from the craziness of the reception and just enjoy each other, and the fact that we were finally husband and wife. I loved that moment too…it was totally worth getting my dress completely filthy!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Everyone warned me that the actual wedding day would fly by in a complete blur, but I thought they were exaggerating. Well, they weren’t! There are several, extra special moments that really stick out in my mind, but until Austen and I got our photos, I couldn’t have told you if half the details we’d planned actually became a reality.
So, my advice would be to try and take a breath, look around, and soak it all in. The craziness of having all your loved ones in one place, of being shuffled around on a schedule and being overwhelmed and anxious and over-the-top excited. Of being so happy, and so in love. Just enjoy it all…every single second. Even the ones you don’t think will matter in the long run, because trust me, they will. Everything about that day matters. And it will fly by faster than you could ever imagine!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Austen and I just moved into our second apartment together. He’s got a little less than a year of school left to become a math teacher, and I’m working as the lead blog writer for Southern Bride & Groom. We’re so looking forward to expanding our family beyond us and our two sweet rescue pups, eventually. But for now, we’re just enjoying this season of our lives–this post-grad, sometimes unstable and almost always unpredictable, but absolutely wonderful season.
Photographer: Nancy Ray Photography / Planner: Erin McLean Events / Ceremony Venue: The Garden Terrace at Fearrington Village / Reception Venue: The Barn at Fearrington Village / Florist, Caterer and Wedding Cake Baker: Fearrington Village / Groom’s Cake: Simply Cakes / Rentals: CE Rental / Band: Liquid Pleasure / DJ: Ryan from SPIN / Bride’s Gown, Sash and Hair Piece: Kleinfeld Bridal / Paper Products: The Green Kangaroo / Hair and Makeup: MakeUpForYourDay / Bride’s Shoes: “Charm” by Kate Spade / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Bari Jay / Men’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank / Bridesmaids’ Gifts: Kate Spade “As Good As Gold” Bangles / Groomsmen Gifts: Engraved Case Pocket Knives / Ceremony String Duo: Arioso Strings / Calligrapher: Calligraphy by Carrie / Pie Pops: Raleigh Cake Pops